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She’s on the sidelines, and loving it

Illness benched Emily Boone’s sports career, but cheerleading keeps her close to the action

Emily Boone’s basketball career has taken another turn.

A heart defect ended her playing days after she helped Garfield-Palouse High School win a state championship her sophomore year. Next, she turned to coaching, sitting alongside head coach Steve Swinney and her father, Tim Boone, as the Vikings reached the State 2B tournament at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena last March.

If the Vikings return this spring, Emily Boone will be back on the sidelines, but in a decidedly different role: cheerleading.

“I’m in noncompetitive cheerleading,” she said. “No stunts or anything.”

Boone has a heart condition known as long QT syndrome, which can be fatal if adrenalin or stress trigger a heart attack. It was discovered after she fainted during a math class in November 2007. Fortunately, by the time all the testing was done and she was forced her to give up strenuous athletic competition, Gar-Pal’s season had come to a successful conclusion.

Swinney welcomed her involvement last season, and Boone made a successful transition to coaching.

Now she’s transitioning again.

“When Dad told me that he wasn’t going to coach anymore, I thought I wouldn’t either,” she said. But, “I still wanted to be active in something. I danced when I was young and I loved it. In cheerleading you do dance routines. I’m really enjoying it.”

Suddenly, instead of being an experienced veteran, Boone is the rookie learning new plays.

“It’s different than all the other competitive sports I’ve been involved with,” she said. “It’s nicer in a way, you have a little freedom. You can make up your own cheers. In basketball you never made up your own plays.”

What’s more, “in basketball you’re really depending on each other (to run plays). In cheerleading I make mistakes because I’m new, but it isn’t hurting the team. It’s less stressful in that sense.”

But Boone said she still finds herself thinking like a player-turned-coach. And she misses it.

“When I’m watching basketball games from sidelines I think about what I’d do different, what I’d tell the team,” she said. “I really liked being involved and people valuing my opinion. I enjoyed the players coming up and asking questions. In cheerleading I don’t get that because I’m the one trying to catch on.”

A former three-sport athlete, Boone said she’ll return to her job at the Green Frog Café after basketball is over, as she did last year, instead of going to track practice.

“I wasn’t as passionate about track,” said Boone, who also played volleyball. “But it was hard to see people (working out) when I was getting in my car to go home.”

Her health has been fine. “I’m still having dizzy spells but that’s something I’ve always dealt with,” she said. “My defibrillator hasn’t gone off.”

Boone hasn’t fainted, but then again, she’s not in a math class. She joked last spring that she shouldn’t have to take math because that may have been the stress point.

At a recent checkup her doctor said her pacemaker is being used 83 percent of the time.

“My main concern is you have to replace the battery every five to 10 years,” she said. “If I’m using it that much it’s probably seven years.”

One thing that has come out of her experience is an interest in becoming a cardiac technician; she has applied to University of Hawaii at Hilo to take prerequisites.

“I love Palouse and the small-town atmosphere but I’m ready to get out,” she said. “When it was time to look at colleges, I thought, ‘Why not?’ I can just see myself there.

“I don’t think I’ll be into surfing. I’ll be into swimming and tanning, relaxing on the beach.”